Read CHAPTER IX of The Irrational Knot, free online book, by George Bernard Shaw, on

On Monday morning Douglas received a note inviting him to lunch at Mr. Lind’s club.  He had spent the greater part of the previous night composing a sonnet, which he carried with him in his pocket to St. James’s Street.  Mr. Lind received him cordially; listened to an account of his recent stay abroad; and described his own continental excursions, both gentlemen expressing great interest at such coincidences as their having put up at the same hotel or travelled by the same line of railway.  When luncheon was over, Mr. Lind proposed that they should retire to the smoking-room.

“I should like to have a few words with you first, as we are alone here,” said Douglas.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Lind, assuming a mild dignity in anticipation of being appealed to as a parent.  “Certainly, Sholto.”

“What I have to say, coming so soon after my long absence, will probably surprise you.  I had it in contemplation before my departure, and was only prevented from broaching it to you then by circumstances which have happily since lost their significance.  When I tell you that my communication has reference to Marian, you will perhaps guess its nature.”

“Indeed!” said Mr. Lind, affecting surprise.  “Well, Sholto, if it be so, you have my heartiest approval.  You know what a lonely life her marriage will entail on me; so you will not expect me to consent without a few regrets.  But I could not desire a better settlement for her.  She must leave me some day.  I have no right to complain.”

“We shall not be very far asunder, I hope; and it is in Marian’s nature to form many ties, but to break none.”

“She is an amiable girl, my ­my darling child.  Does she know anything of this?”

“I am here at her express request; and there remains to me the pleasure of getting her own final consent, which I would not press for until armed with your sanction.”

Except for an involuntary hitch of his eyelids, Mr. Lind looked as if he believed perfectly in Douglas’s respect for his parental claims.  “Quite right,” he said, “quite right.  You have my best wishes.  I have no doubt you will succeed:  none.  There are, of course, a few affairs to be settled ­a few contingencies to be provided for ­children ­accidents ­and so forth.  No difficulty is likely to arise between us on that score; but still, these things have to be arranged.”

“I propose a very simple method of arranging them.  You are a man of honor, and more conversant with business than I. Give me your instructions.  My lawyer shall have them within half an hour.”

“That is said like a gentleman and a Douglas, Sholto.  But I must consider before giving you an answer.  You have thrown upon me the duty of studying your position as well as Marian’s; and I must neither abuse your generosity nor neglect her interest.”

“You will, nevertheless, allow me to consider the conditions as settled, since I leave them entirely in your hands.”

“My own means have been seriously crippled by the extravagance of Reginald.  Indeed both my boys have cost me much money.  I had not, like you, the good fortune to be an only son.  I was the fourth son of a younger son:  there was very little left for me.  I will treat Marian as liberally as I can; but I fear I cannot do anything for her that will bear comparison with your munificence.”

“Surely I can give her enough.  I should prefer to be solely responsible for her welfare.”

“Oh no.  That would be too bad.  Oh no, Sholto:  I will give her something, please God.”

“As you wish, Mr. Lind.  We can arrange it to your satisfaction afterward.  Do you intend returning to Westbourne Terrace soon?”

“I am afraid not.  I have to go into the City.  If you would care to come with me, I can shew you the Company’s place there, and the working of the motor.  It is well worth seeing.  Then you can return with me to the Terrace and dine with us.  After dinner you can talk to Marian.”

Douglas consented; and they went to Queen Victoria Street, to a building which had on each doorpost a brass shield inscribed THE CONOLLY ELECTRO-MOTOR COMPANY OF LONDON, LIMITED. At the offices, on the first floor, they were received obsequiously and informed that Mr. Conolly was within.  They then went to a door on which appeared the name of the inventor, and entered a handsomely furnished office containing several working models of machinery, and a writing-table, from his seat at which Conolly rose to salute his visitors.

“Good evening, Mr. Lind.  How do you do, Mr. Douglas?”

“Oh!” said Mr. Lind.  “You two are acquainted.  I did not know that.”

“Yes,” said Conolly, “I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Douglas at the Academy yesterday evening.”

“Indeed?  Marian did not mention that you were there.  Well, can we see the wonders of the place, Mr. Conolly; or do we disturb you?”

“Not at all,” replied Conolly, turning to one of the models, and beginning his showman’s lecture with disquieting promptitude.  “Hitherto, as you are no doubt aware, Mr. Douglas, steam has kept electricity, as a motive power, out of the field; because it is much less expensive.  Even induced magnetic currents, the cheapest known form of electric energy, can be obtained only by the use of steam power.  You generate steam by the combustion of coal:  electricity, without steam, can only be generated by the combustion of metals.  Coal is much cheaper than metal:  consider the vast amount of coal consumed in smelting metals.  Still, electricity is a much greater force than steam:  it’s stronger, so to speak.  Sixpennorth of electricity would do more work than sixpennorth of steam if only you could catch it and hold it without waste.  Up to the present the waste has been so enormous in electric engines as compared with steam engines that steam has held its own in spite of its inferior strength.  What I have invented is, to put it shortly, an electric engine in which there is hardly any waste; and we can now pump water, turn mill-stones, draw railway trains, and lift elevators, at a saving, in fuel and labor, of nearly seventy per cent, of the cost of steam.  And,” added Conolly, glancing at Douglas, “as a motor of six-horsepower can be made to weigh less than thirty pounds, including fuel, flying is now perfectly feasible.”

“What!” said Douglas, incredulously.  “Does not all trustworthy evidence prove that flying is a dream?”

“So it did; because a combination of great power with little weight, such as an eagle, for instance, possesses, could not formerly be realized in a machine.  The lightest known four-horse-power steam engine weighs nearly fifty pounds.  With my motor, a machine weighing thirty pounds will give rather more than six-horse-power, or, in other words, will produce a wing power competent to overcome much more than its own gravity.  If the Aeronautical Society does not, within the next few years, make a machine capable of carrying passengers through the air to New York in less than two days, I will make one myself.”

“Very wonderful, indeed,” said Douglas, politely, looking askance at him.

“No more wonderful than the flight of a sparrow, I assure you.  We shall presently be conveyed to the top of this building by my motor.  Here you have a model locomotive, a model steam hammer, and a sewing machine:  all of which, as you see, I can set to work.  However, this is mere show.  You must always bear in mind that the novelty is not in the working of these machines, but the smallness of the cost of working.”

Douglas endured the rest of the exhibition in silence, understanding none of the contrivances until they were explained, and not always understanding them even then.  It was disagreeable to be instructed by Conolly ­to feel that there were matters of which Conolly knew everything and he nothing.  If he could have but shaped a pertinent question or two, enough to prove that he was quite capable of the subject if he chose to turn his attention to it, he could have accepted Conolly’s information on the machinery as indifferently as that of a policeman on the shortest way to some place that it was no part of a gentleman’s routine to frequent.  As it was, he took refuge in his habitual reserve, and, lest the exhibition should be prolonged on his account, took care to shew no more interest in it than was barely necessary to satisfy Mr. Lind.  At last it was over; and they returned westward together in a hansom.

“He is a Yankee, I suppose,’” said Douglas, as if ingenuity were a low habit that must be tolerated in an American.

“Yes.  They are a wonderful people for that sort of thing.  Curious turn of mind the mechanical instinct is!”

“It is one with which I have no sympathy.  It is generally subject to the delusion that it has a monopoly of utility.  Your mechanic hates art; pelts it with lumps of iron; and strives to extinguish it beneath all the hard and ugly facts of existence.  On the other hand, your artist instinctively hates machinery.  I fear I am an artist.”

“I dont think you are quite right there, Sholto.  No.  Look at the steam engine, the electric telegraph, the ­the other inventions of the century.  How could we get on without them?”

“Quite as well as Athens got on without them.  Our mechanical contrivances seem to serve us; but they are really mastering us, crowding and crushing the beauty out of our lives, and making commerce the only god.”

“I certainly admit that the coarser forms of Radicalism have made alarming strides under the influence of our modern civilization.  But the convenience of steam conveyance is so remarkable that I doubt if we could now dispense with it.  Nor, as a consistent Liberal, a moderate Liberal, do I care to advocate any retrogression, even in the direction of ancient Greece.”

Douglas was seized with a certain impatience of Mr. Lind, as of a well-mannered man who had never learned anything, and had forgotten all that he had been taught.  He did not attempt to argue, but merely said, coldly:  “I can only say that I wish Fate had made me an Athenian instead of an Englishman of the nineteenth century.”

Mr. Lind smiled complacently:  he knew Douglas, if not Athens, better, but was in too tolerant a humor to say so.  Little more passed between the two until they reached Westbourne Terrace, where Marian and her cousin were dressing for dinner.  When Marian came down, her beauty so affected Douglas that his voice was low and his manner troubled as he greeted her.  He took her in to dinner, and sat in silence beside her, heedless alike of his host’s commonplaces and Miss McQuinch’s acridities.

Mr. Lind unceremoniously took a nap after his wine that evening, and allowed his guest to go upstairs alone.  Douglas hoped that Elinor would be equally considerate, but, to his disappointment, he found her by herself in the drawing-room.  She hastened to explain.

“Marian is looking for some music.  She will be back directly.”

He sat down and took an album from the table, saying:  “Have you many new faces here?”

“Yes.  But we never discard old faces for new ones.  It is the old ones that are really interesting.”

“I have not seen this one of Mr. Lind before.  It is capital.  Ah! this of you is an old friend.”

“Yes.  What do you think of the one of Constance on the opposite page?”

“She looks as if she were trying to be as lugubrious as possible.  What dress is that?  Is it a uniform?”

“Yes.  She joined a nursing guild.  Didnt Mrs. Douglas tell you?”

“I believe so.  I forgot.  She went into a cottage hospital or something of that kind, did she not?”

“She left it because one of the doctors offended her.  He was rather dreadful.  He said that in two months she had contributed more to the mortality among the patients than he had in two years, and told her flatly that she had been trained for the drawing-room and ought to stay there.  She was glad enough to have an excuse for leaving; for she was heartily sick of making a fool of herself.”

“Indeed!  Where is she now?”

“Back at Towers Cottage, moping, I suppose.  That’s Mr. Conolly the inventor, there under Jasper.”

“So I perceive.  Clever head, rather!  A plain, hard nature, with no depths in it.  Is that his wife, with the Swiss bonnet?”

“His wife!  Why, that is a Swiss girl, the daughter of a guide at Chamounix, who nursed Marian when she sprained her ankle.  Mr. Conolly is not married.”

“I thought men of his stamp always married early.”

“No.  He is engaged, and engaged to a lady of very good position.”

“He owes that to the diseased craving of modern women for notoriety of any sort.  What an admirable photograph of Marian!  I never saw it before.  It is really most charming.  When was it taken?”

“Last August, at Geneva.  She does not like it ­thinks it too coquettish.”

“Then perhaps she will give it to me.”

“She will be only too glad, I daresay.  You have caught her at a soft moment to-night.”

“I cannot find that duet anywhere,” said Marian, entering.  “What! up already, Sholto?  Where is papa?”

“I left him asleep in the dining-room.  I have just been asking Miss McQuinch whether she thought you would give me a copy of this carte.”

“That Geneva one.  It is most annoying how people persist in admiring it.  It always looks to me as if it belonged to an assortment of popular beauties at one shilling each.  I dont think I have another.  But you may take that if you wish.”

“Thank you,” said Douglas, drawing it from the book.

“I think you have a copy of every photograph I have had taken in my life,” she said, sitting down near him, and taking the album.  “I have several of yours, too.  You must get one taken soon for me; I have not got you with your beard yet.  I have a little album upstairs which Aunt Dora gave me on my eighth birthday; and the first picture in it is you, dressed in flannels, holding a bat, and looking very stern as captain of your eleven at Eton.  I used to stand in great awe of you then.  Do you remember telling me once that ‘Zanoni’ was a splendid book, and that I ought to read it?”

“Pshaw!  No.  I must have been a young fool.  But it seems that I had the grace even then to desire your sympathy.”

“I assure you I read it most reverently down in Wiltshire, where Nelly kept a select library of fiction concealed underneath her mattress; and I believed every word of it.  Nelly and I agreed that you were exactly like Zanoni; but she was hardly to blame; for she had never seen you.”

“Things like that make deep impressions on children,” said Elinor, thoughtfully.  “You were a Zanoni in my imagination for years before I saw you.  When we first met you treated me insufferably.  If you had known how my childish fancy had predisposed me to worship you, you might have vouchsafed me some more consideration, and I might have gone on believing you a demigod to the end of the chapter.  I have hardly forgiven you yet for disenchanting me.”

“I am sorry,” said Douglas sarcastically.  “I must have been sadly lacking in impressiveness.  But on the other hand I recollect that you did not disappoint me in the least.  You fully bore out the expectations I had been led to form of you.”

“I have no doubt I did,” said Elinor.  “Yet I protest that my reputation was as unjust as yours.  However, I have outlived my sensitiveness to this injustice, and have even contracted a bad habit of pretending to act up to it occasionally before foolish people.  Marian:  are you sure that duet is not on the sofa in my room?”

“Oh, the sofa!  I looked only in the green case.”

“I will go and hunt it out myself.  Excuse me for a few minutes.”

Douglas was glad to see her go.  Yet he was confused when he was alone with Marian.  He strolled to the window, outside which the roof of the porch had been converted into a summer retreat by a tent of pink-striped canvass.  “The tent is up already,” he said.  “I noticed it as we came in.”

“Yes.  Would you prefer to sit there?  We can carry out this little table, and put the lamp on it.  There is just room for three chairs.”

“We need not crowd ourselves with the table,” he said.  “There will be light enough.  We only want to talk.”

“Very well,” said Marian, rising.  “Will you give me that woolen thing that is on the sofa?  It will do me for a shawl.”  He placed it on her shoulders, and they went out.

“I will sit in this corner,” said Marian.  “You are too big for the campstool.  You had better bring a chair.  I am fond of sitting here.  When the crimson shade is on the lamp, and papa asleep in its roseate glow, the view is quite romantic:  there is something ecstatically snug in hiding here and watching it.”  Douglas smiled, and seated himself as she suggested, near her, with his shoulder against the stone balustrade.

“Marian,” said he, after a pause:  “you remember what passed between us at the Academy yesterday?”

“You mean our solemn league and covenant.  Yes.”

“Why did we not make that covenant before?  Life is not so long, nor happiness so common, that we can afford to trifle away two years of it.  I wish you had told me when I last came here of that old photograph of mine in your album.”

“But this is not a new covenant.  It is only an old one mended.  We were always good friends until you quarrelled and ran away.”

“That was not my fault, Marian.”

“Then it must have been mine.  However, it does not matter now.”

“You are right.  Prometheus is unbound now; and his despair is only a memory sanctifying his present happiness.  You know why I called on your father this morning?”

“It was to see the electro-motor in the city, was it not?”

“Good Heavens, Marian!” he said, rising, “what spirit of woman or spirit of mischief tempts you to coquet with me even now?”

“I really thought that was the reason ­besides, of course, your desire to make papa amends for not having been to see him sooner after your return.”

“Marian!” he said, still remonstrantly.

She looked at him with sudden dread, and instinctively recognized the expression in his face.

“You know as well as I,” he continued, “that I went to seek his consent to our solemn league and covenant, as you call it.  If that covenant were written on your heart as it is on mine, you would not inflict on me this pretty petty torture.  Your father has consented:  he is delighted.  Now may I make a guess at that happy secret you told me of yesterday, and promised I should know one day?”

“Stop!  Wait,” said Marian, very pale.  “I must tell you that secret myself.”

“Hush.  Do not be so moved.  Remember that your confession is to be whispered to me alone.”

Dont talk like that.  It is all a mistake.  My secret has nothing to do with you.”  Douglas drew back a little way.

“I am engaged to be married.”

“What do you mean?” he said sternly, advancing a step and looking down menacingly at her with his hand on the back of his chair.

“I have said what I mean,” replied Marian with dignity.  But she rose quickly as soon as she had spoken, and got past him into the drawing-room.  He followed her; and she turned and faced him in the middle of the room, paler than before.

“You are engaged to me,” he said.

“I am not,” she replied.

“That is a lie!” he exclaimed, struggling in his rage to break through the strong habit of self-control.  “It is a damnable lie; but it is the most cruel way of getting rid of me, and therefore the one most congenial to your heartlessness.”

“Sholto,” said Marian, her cheeks beginning to redden:  “you should not speak to me like that.”

“I say,” he cried fiercely, “that it is a lie!”

“Whats the matter?” said Elinor, coming hastily into the room.

“Sholto has lost his temper,” said Marian, firmly, her indignation getting the better of her fear now that she was no longer alone with him.

“It is a lie,” repeated Douglas, unable to shape a new sentence.  Elinor and Marian looked at one another in perplexity.  Then Mr. Lind entered.

“Gently, pray,” said he.  “You can be heard all through the house.  Marian:  what is the matter?”

She did not answer; but Douglas succeeded, after a few efforts, in speaking intelligibly.  “Your daughter,” he said, “with the assistance of her friend Mrs. Leith Fairfax, and a sufficient degree of direct assurance on her own part, has achieved the triumph of bringing me to her feet a second time, after I had unfortunately wounded her vanity by breaking her chains for two years.”

“That is utterly false,” interrupted Marian, with excitement.

“I say,” said Douglas, in a deeper tone and with a more determined manner, “that she set Mrs. Leith Fairfax on me with a tale of love and regret for my absence.  She herself with her own lips deliberately invited me to seek your consent to our union.  She caused you to write me the invitation I received from you this morning.  She told me that my return realized a dream that had been haunting her for two years.  She begged me to forgive her the past, and to write her a sonnet, of which she said she was at least more worthy than Clytemnestra, and of which I say she is at best less worthy than Cressida.”  He took a paper from his pocket as he spoke; and, with a theatrical gesture, tore it into fragments.

“This is very extraordinary,” said Mr. Lind irresolutely.  “Is it some foolish quarrel, or what is the matter?  Pray let us have no more unpleasantness.”

“You need fear none from me,” said Douglas.  “I do not propose to continue my acquaintance with Miss Lind.”

“Mr. Douglas has proposed to marry me; and I have refused him,” said Marian.  “He has lost his temper and insulted me.  I think you ought to tell him to go away.”

“Gently, Marian, gently.  What am I to believe about this?”

“What I have told you,” said Douglas, “I confirm on my honor, which you can weigh against the pretences of a twice perjured woman.”


“I have to speak plainly on my own behalf, Mr. Lind.  I regret that you were not in a position this morning to warn me of your daughter’s notable secret.”

“If it is a secret, and you are a gentleman, you will hold your tongue,” interposed Elinor, sharply.

“Papa,” said Marian:  “I became engaged yesterday to Mr. Conolly.  I told Mr. Douglas this in order to save him from making me a proposal.  That is the reason he has forgotten himself.  I had not intended to tell you so suddenly; but this misunderstanding has forced me to.”

“Engaged to Mr. Conolly!” cried Mr. Lind.  “I begin to fear that ­Enga ­” He took breath, and continued, to Marian:  “I forbid you to entertain any such engagement.  Sholto:  there is evidently nothing to be gained by discussing this matter in hot blood.  It is some girlish absurdity ­some ­some ­some ­”

“I apologize for having doubted the truth of the excuse,” said Douglas; “but I see that I have failed to gauge Miss Lind’s peculiar taste.  I beg you to understand, Mr. Lind, that my pretensions are at an end.  I do not aspire to the position of Mr. Conolly’s rival.”

“You are already in the position of Mr. Conolly’s unsuccessful rival; and you fill it with a very bad grace,” said Elinor.

“Pray be silent, Elinor,” said Mr. Lind.  “This matter does not concern you.  Marian:  go to your room for the present.  I shall speak to you afterwards.”

Marian flushed, and repressed a sob.  “I wish I were under his protection now,” she said, looking reproachfully at Douglas as she crossed the room.

“What can you expect from a father but hostility?” said Elinor, bitterly.  “You are a coward, like all your sex,” she added, turning to Douglas.  Then she suddenly opened the door, and passed out through it with Marian, whilst the housemaids fled upstairs, the footman shrank into a corner of the landing, and the page hastily dragged the cook down to the kitchen.

The two men, left together in the drawing-room, were for some moments quite at a loss.  Then Mr. Lind, after a preliminary cough or two, said:  “Sholto:  I cannot describe to you how shocked I am by what I have just heard.  I am deeply disappointed in Marian.  I trusted her implicitly; but of course I now see that I have been wrong in allowing her so much liberty.  Evidently a great deal has been going on of which I had not any suspicion.”

Douglas said nothing.  His resentment was unabated; but his rage, naturally peevish and thin in quality, was subsiding, though it surged back on him at intervals.  But now that he no longer desired to speak passionately, he would not trust himself to speak at all.  Suddenly Mr. Lind broke out with a fury that astonished him, preoccupied as he was.

“This ­this fellow must have had opportunities of thrusting himself into her society of which I knew nothing.  I thought she barely knew him.  And if I had known, could I have suspected her of intriguing with an ill-bred adventurer!  Yes, I might:  my experience ought to have warned me that the taint was in her blood.  Her mother did the same thing ­left the position I had given her to run away with a charlatan, disgracing me without the shadow of an excuse or reason except her own innate love for what was low.  I thought Marian had escaped that.  I was proud of her ­placed un ­unbounded confidence in her.”

“She has struck me a blow,” said Douglas, “the infernal treachery .”  He checked himself, and after a moment resumed in his ordinary formal manner.  “I must leave you, Mr. Lind.  I am quite unable at present to discuss what has passed.  Any conventional expressions of regret would be ­Good-night.”

He bowed and left the room.  Mr. Lind, taken aback, did not attempt to detain him or even return his bow, but stood biting his lips with a frown of discomfiture and menace.  When he was alone, he paced the room several times.  Then he procured some writing materials and sat down before them.  He wrote nothing, but, after sitting for some time, he went upstairs.  Passing Marian’s room he listened.  The sharp voice and restless movements of his niece were the only sounds he heard.  They seemed to frighten him; for he stole on quickly to his own room, and went to bed.  Even there he could hear a shrill note of conversation occasionally from the opposite room, where Marian was sitting on a sofa, trying to subdue the hysteria which had been gaining on her since her escape from the balcony; whilst Elinor, seated on the corner of a drawer which projected from the dressing-table, talked incessantly in her most acrid tones.

“Henceforth,” she said, “Uncle Reginald is welcome to my heartiest detestation.  I have been waiting ever since I knew him for an excuse to hate him; and now he has given me one.  He has taken part ­like a true parent ­against you with a self-intoxicated fool whom he ought to have put out of the house.  He has told me to mind my own business.  I shall be even with him for that some day.  I am as vindictive as an elephant:  I hate people who are not vindictive:  they are never grateful either, only incapable of any enduring sentiment.  And Douglas!  Sholto Douglas!  The hero, the Newdigate poet, the handsome man!  What a noble fellow he is when a little disappointment rubs his varnish off!  I am glad I called him a coward to his face.  I am thoroughly well satisfied with myself altogether:  at last I have come out of a scene without having forgotten the right thing to say.  You never see people in all their selfishness until they pretend to love you.  See what you owe to your loving suitor, Sholto Douglas!  See what you owe to your loving father, Reginald Lind!”

“I do not think that my father should have told me to leave the room,” said Marian.  “It was Sholto’s place to have gone, not mine.”

“Mr. Lind, who has so suddenly and deservedly descended from ‘papa’ to ‘my father,’ judiciously sided with the stronger and richer party.”

“Nelly:  I shall be as unhappy after this as even Sholto can desire.  I feel very angry with papa; and yet I have no right to be.  I suppose it is because I am in the wrong.  I deceived him about the engagement.”

“Bosh!  You didnt tell him because you knew you couldnt trust him; and now you see how right you were.”

“Even so, Nelly, I must not forget all his past care of me.”

“What care has he ever taken of you?  He was very little better acquainted with you than he was with me, when you came to keep house for him and make yourself useful.  Of course, he had to pay for your board and lodging and education.  The police would not have allowed him to leave you to the parish.  Besides, he was proud of having a nice, pretty daughter to dispose of.  You were quite welcome to be happy so long as you did not do anything except what he approved of.  But the moment you claim your independence as a grown woman, the moment you attempt to dispose of yourself instead of letting him dispose of you!  Bah! I might have been my father’s pet, if I had been a nonentity.  As it was, he spared no pains to make me miserable; and as I was only a helpless little devil of a girl, he succeeded to his heart’s content.  Uncle Reginald will try to do exactly the same to-morrow, he will come and bully you, instead of apologizing as he ought.  See if he doesnt!”

“If I had as much reason to complain of my childhood as you have, perhaps I should not feel so shocked and disappointed by his turning on me to-night.  Surely, when he saw me attacked as I was, he ought to have come to my assistance.”

“Any stranger would have taken your part.  The footman would, if you had asked him.  But then, James is not your father.”

“It seems a very small thing to be bidden to leave the room.  But I will never expose myself to a repetition of it.”

“Quite right.  But what do you mean to do? for, after all, though parental love is an imposition, parental authority is a fact.”

“I will get married.”

“Out of the frying pan into the fire!  Certainly, if you are resolved to marry, the present is as good as another time, and more convenient.  But there must be some legal formalities to go through.  You cannot turn into the first church you meet, and be married off-hand.”

“Ned must find out all that.  I am sadly disappointed and disilluded, Nelly.”

“Time will cure you as it does everybody; and you will be the better for being wiser.  By the bye, what did Sholto mean about Mrs. Fairfax?”

“I dont know.”

“She has evidently been telling him a parcel of lies.  Do you remember her hints about him yesterday at lunch?  I have not the least doubt that she has told him you are frantically in love with him.  She as good as told you the same about him.”

“Oh! she is not capable of doing such a thing.”

“Isnt she?  We shall see.”

“I dont know what to think,” said Marian, despondently.  “I used to believe that both you and Ned thought too little of other people; but it seems now that the world is nothing but a morass of wickedness and falsehood.  And Sholto, too!  Who would have believed that he could break out in that coarse way?  Do you remember the day that Fleming, the coachman, lost his temper with Auntie down at the Cottage.  Sholto was exactly like that; not a bit more refined or dignified.”

“Rather less so, because Fleming was in the right.  Let us go to bed.  We can do nothing to-night, but fret, and wish for to-morrow.  Better get to sleep.  Resentment does not keep me awake, I can vouch for that:  I got well broken in to it when I was a child.  I heard Uncle Reginald going to his room some time ago.  I am getting sleepy, too, though I feel the better for the excitement.”

“Very well.  To bed be it,” said Marian.  But she did not sleep at all as well as Nelly.